Young shot Philippa Stroud won’t let anything stand in the way of her shooting ambitions, as Jasper Fellows discovers
The future of our sport is in the hands of the young shots. From the business minded James Bradley-Day to Olympic hopefuls Lucy Hall and Theo Ling, we can all take inspiration from the passion that they have for keeping our sport alive and well.
One inspirational youngster shooting today is Philippa Stroud. At just 14 years of age she has already shown a phenomenal level of dedication to the sport she loves and found a way to turn her passion into a force for good.
Her story begins with a have-a-go session at her local clay ground in Oxfordshire. “I started shooting back in August 2017,” says Philippa. “I didn’t have any friends who shot but when I found out about a local novice day I signed up, thinking it would be fun to try.
“My father and grandfather are both keen shots, so they were very encouraging. However, despite their encouragement I admit I was terrified when I found myself on the stands with a gun in hand for the first time.”
Once she built up the courage to pull the trigger, Philippa discovered she had nothing to be scared of. “When I fired that first shot and broke my first clay I wondered why I had been so nervous! It wasn’t scary at all, if anything it felt like something I was meant to do.”
Having quickly fallen in love with the sport, Philippa threw herself full-heartedly into clay shooting and signed herself up for The School’s Challenge 2018.
Founded by David Florent of The Oxford Gun Company, The Schools Challenge is the largest young shot orientated clay shooting competition in the country, with anyone under the age of 21 and in full time education able to compete. Competition is fierce, with shooters battling through a series of qualification events for a chance to compete in the grand final, where a brand-new car awaits both the winning boy and girl.
Just being a finalist, let alone winning a car, puts any young shot front and centre in the industry and marks them out as one to watch both for future competitors and for potential sponsors.
Remarkably, with less than a year’s shooting experience to her name, Philippa shot past the competition and into the final event. Unfortunately, a cruel twist of fate would keep her from her prize.
“The 2018 series went fantastically. I was really looking forward to the final and I think I had a good chance of winning,” she says. “But I was having a few issues, I was suffering from really terrible headaches. My eyesight was suffering too, and I was struggling to keep food down. I went to my GP and he suggested a visit to the opticians, perhaps I needed glasses.”
“So, I made a trip to my local opticians. Everything was going well until they took photos of the optic nerve at the back of my eye with a special camera.
“They saw that the nerve was really swollen, which, I was told, could be a sign of swelling on the brain. The optician told me I needed to go to hospital immediately. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. One minute I thought I was fine, the next I’m being rushed to hospital.”
When Philippa and her parents arrived at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford Philippa was taken in for a series of scans in an attempt to find the cause of the swelling. Their worst fears were confirmed. The increased pressure, the painful headaches and the vision problems were the result of a brain tumour.
“I was very lucky in a way,” explains Philippa, “because the tumour was operable and the doctors and nurses who looked after me were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I really felt like I could really trust them and that my surgeon would do everything that he could to help.” There was a lot of work to be done, two surgical procedures together totalling over 19 hours.
Fortunately, the operations were successful and, after 11 days recovering in hospital Philippa was finally able to return home. “The recovery process was exhausting and still ongoing to this day. My balance was particularly affected, and I was struggling with double vision.
“I had to attend some physiotherapy sessions to help with my balance, and I also had to wear an eye patch, which I had to switch every other day, to try to correct the vision issues.”
Despite her traumatic ordeal, Philippa was determined to get back out on the stands. Less than two months after the terrifying rush to hospital she was back breaking clays once again.
“It was difficult getting back into shooting, particularly while still recovering, but it was a huge release. During my time in hospital I was so cooped up and treated like a china doll, so to have the freedom to be back out again and shooting felt incredible, even if I was still wearing an eye patch.”
It wasn’t long after her return to the stands that Philippa realised that
she wanted to give something back to those who had helped her throughout her ordeal. Then an idea struck – she could combine her passion for clay shooting with a charity drive to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.
“The Brain Tumour Charity were so helpful throughout my time in hospital and during my recovery process. They were able to answer all of the questions my family and I have had and have been a continual source of great advice.
“We thought it would be amazing to set up a charity event in their name. The Oxford Gun Company agreed and very kindly said they’d be willing to host an event.”
“There was a lot to organise, but with the help of my parents, we were able to find some really great sponsors who wanted to be involved. Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Bowman Traps, Philips Tyres, Direct Pallets, Teague Chokes and of course The Oxford Gun Company all helped us to put together a 50 bird Sporting competition on 29 June 2019.”
“It was an amazing day, all in all – the weather was perfect, and lots of shooters took part and kindly donated to the cause. In total, we were able to raise over £2,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity. It felt great to be able to give something back to those who had helped me so much, and I really couldn’t have asked for the day to go any better.”
The event went so well that Philippa, her parents and The Oxford Gun Company decided to host a follow up event a year later. “The second event took place on 5 September 2020,” says Philippa.
“It was quite challenging hosting a clay shooting event during the Coronavirus pandemic, but we still had a successful event, with plenty of shooters arriving to compete and raise money for a good cause.
“We are planning on turning The Brain Tumour Charity Shoot into an annual event. I’m really looking forward to our 2021 shoot. We’re still organising everything, but I’m hoping for another successful day.”
The Brain Tumour Charity Shoot 2021 isn’t Philippa’s only focus for this year. She still has her own shooting to think about. She is already on British Shooting’s Olympic pathway and she has some big plans for the future.
“One day I would love to represent my country at the Commonwealth or Olympic games,” she says. “Over the past 12 months I’ve been training hard with my coach, Anita North. With her help I’ve really seen my shooting progress.”
“I know that my shooting dreams would be impossible if it wasn’t for the amazing support I have from Anita, my mum, my dad and the rest of my friends and family. I can’t thank them all enough for spending so much time and energy on me and my shooting.
“From booking hotel rooms for the weekend, to waking up early on a Saturday just to drive me to an event. My little brother is particularly amazing – he hates getting up early, but he does it just because he knows how happy I am when I’m shooting.”
“I’m very fortunate to have some amazing sponsors supporting me as well. Phillips Tyres, Carpets4Less, AW Mobbs and Wheatley Car Centre have all supported me throughout my training. Bowman Traps have been fantastic, they even gave me a trap so I could continue my training throughout the lockdown, which was incredible.”
Despite everything Philippa has already been through she is still at the beginning of her shooting career. Thanks to her incredible level of dedication there’s little doubt that she will be able to achieve her shooting dreams.
But beyond her passion for the sport Philippa has shown something else: that even our youngest shots are capable of bring the shooting community together and turning our sport into a force for good. If the future of the sport is in the hands of the young shots, then as long as we have people like Philippa out there breaking clays we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
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